My personal notes on fixing myself.
From now on I am writing out everything in an attempt to untangle my thoughts and make sense of why I do the things I do.
I suffer from social anxiety. Sometimes, I think I am getting better. I will go out, and although my interactions can be awkward, at least I am out and trying. Other times, my fears are crippling. I won’t leave my house for days. I can barely get out of bed. Recently I’ve been suffering from another bad episode.
In the past, my anxiety has cost me many dear friends who take my spells of seclusion personally. Just a few weeks ago I found out the reason one of my friends stopped texting me is because he thought I hated him. It makes sense really- he invited me to see his band play all the time, and I always had an excuse. He would invite me to his farm to play music, tell me about people who want me in their band, and I always had an excuse. We used to hang out all the time, but then I would have an episode and go into hiding for a few months. I’m pretty sure the last time I saw this guy was over a year ago. Why would I expect any different? Who wants to be in a one-sided friendship? I want to call him, tell him everything, explain what goes on inside my head and how I physically fear, but I can’t seem to find the courage.
This sort of thing happens to me all the time. There is a pattern. I have lost so many friends over the last few years, and although life is lonely, the avoidance is comforting. I realize now what a bad habit avoiding social situations is.
I should probably mention at this point that I am a musician. The life of a musician and social anxiety do not make for a good combination. There were periods of my life where I was playing music all the time, almost nightly. Not necessarily any sort of formal performance, but even playing bluegrass by a campfire was enough to satisfy me. Now I have lost touch with all of my musician friends. I miss them terribly.
I have been in therapy since spring. I finally gave in roughly three months ago and started taking anti-anxiety medication. I’m not sure if it works or not, but it doesn’t have the awful side-effects that I’ve experienced with other medications so I’m going to keep taking it. I also take Klonopin as needed. I hate to give credit to drugs, but Klonopin has been a turning point in my life. It really helps bring me back to where I need to be when I’m having a panic attack. A week after I received my prescription, I got the courage to start looking for a new job. Two weeks later I landed an internship! Then about a month ago, a friend came to town and invited me to go salsa dancing with a bunch of her friends. Normally, the combination of dancing, new people, and a public setting would be enough to pull another excuse out of my ass, but I had benzos. I took 1 mg of Klonopin, went by myself to a club I had never been to, and met up with a bunch of people I didn’t know well. It took a vodka tonic to give me the extra push out of my shell, but I finally felt comfortable. Not only did I dance and talk to new people, but I was enjoying myself! And I stayed out late!
I thought things would only get better after that night, but I got reclusive again. I’ve been out a few times since that night, but didn’t have as much positive experience. Recently I went to the library and got a book called Diagonally-Parked in a Parallel Universe: Working Through Social Anxiety. So far I’ve really enjoyed it. It really explains what anxiety is doing to your body and what is happening during these panic attacks and why we have these fears. I think if I can start keeping track of my progress, I won’t have such terrible relapses. I want my life back.
SO! I have learned social anxiety is not my fault, but I must take 100% responsibility for my recovery. My father and brother have Asperger’s syndrome, and my mother is anti-social, so it makes sense that I have spent the majority of my life suffering from social anxiety. I thought it would go away when I left home at 18, but here I am at 23, still having the same problems. Setbacks and relapses are normal before achieving a stable change. The goal of recovery in social anxiety is personal empowerment or enablement. I need to examine my beliefs and determine my strengths and weaknesses. I need to let go of negative thoughts and increase my self-esteem.
Recovery can be thought of as a growth process. We develop and mature emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally over time. Graduation to the next step is predicated on mastering the step before. Here are six questions to keep in mind while working through recovery:
1. What kinds of experiences do I want right now?
2. What actions would I admire in myself in this situation?
3. What strengths that I have would be valuable in this situation?
4. How do I feel right now?
5. What am I doing right now?
6. What do I expect?
Aaaand in order to reach empowerment or recovery, I must:
Be willing to take risks.
Define and visualize my goals.
Today I read about responsibility and motivation. I would consider myself pretty damn motivated to get better. Life is too short, I don’t want to spend the rest of my twenties being depressed and missing out on opportunities and friendships because of this illness. Only I can fix this.
The problem with motivation is that it’s not always around. I think that’s where I tend to relapse, when I lose motivation. I don’t think I’ve been fully committed to recovery in the past. It’s so easy to let myself be consumed by negative thinking, instead of fighting it or realizing those thoughts aren’t really who I am.
I must make a commitment to myself to do it and follow through with the effort once I begin. When we commit, we create beliefs which sustain future related ideas, activities, or involvement. Commitment=change. Commitment means our publicly acknowledging that our recovery requires constant attention, hence the whole blog thing. No one knows I do this, but even an anonymous blog where I talk about the things I’m ashamed of is a big step for me. Recovery requires frequent and consistent practice of all the effective techniques, skills, and strategies available to us. It’s like training for a marathon- it’s not just about running, but timing, nutrition, breathing, working out, etc.
One of the things I struggle with is taking risks. By not taking risks, I know what will happen. This provides me with some semblance of security. But the only real security we have is internal security, our self-confidence. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. If I’m unwilling to meet my fears head-on, I won’t be able to conquer them.
I think I’ve written enough for today. I still have a lot of homework to accomplish, and I haven’t even exercised or put on clothes other than pajamas. Tomorrow I will write about goal visualization.